Scenic view of trees at camp

The In-Depth Guide to Friend Groups at Overnight Youth Camp

by Jesse Garner

group of girls smiling at camera

What’s just as fun as coming to overnight youth camp? Coming to camp with a friend! Sometimes the easiest way to convince a camper who might be a little hesitant to come by themselves is to make sure they are in the same cabin as someone they already know. Understand the why already and just want the how-to? Skip to the end.

First, a little vocabulary. A cabin is a group of six to eight campers and a counselor that eat together, sleep in the same room, and go to activity classes together. Within a cabin there could be one or more friend groups, but every camper is part of a cabin. Sometimes you might hear the word cluster or quad, which is a group of two to four cabins that share the same roof.

Plenty of campers (about 40%!) come without being part of a specific friend group, which is great! Camp is an amazing place to meet new friends and try new things in a safe environment. When we assign cabins, we are mindful of the number of friend groups and the number of campers coming without a preset group. Balancing the needs of all our campers is important and a responsibility we take seriously.

To help balance these needs, and create cabin unity, we have two factors to consider regarding friend groups:

  • Up to four campers can be part of a group
  • There can only be one grade difference between all the members

For example, Elliot is in fourth grade. He invites his fifth-grade friend, Hayden, to be in his friend group and Hayden accepts. Now, there are fourth and fifth graders in this group. Elliot would like to invite his friends Justin (third grade), DJ (fourth grade), and Hamilton (fourth grade). Elliot is a popular guy, but they cannot have a group of five! Justin is in third grade, and the group cannot have both third and fifth graders, so Justin cannot be added. There are two spots left in this friend group after Elliot and Hayden, so he will invite DJ and Hamilton to be part of his friend group.


Here’s the why behind these reasons: have you ever been the awkward third wheel on a date? Or traveled to an event and been the only one who didn’t know the others going? We work hard to build unity within the cabin over the course of the week and it’s hard to do that with one or two people left out. Capping our groups at four campers max makes sure that one group of friends doesn’t dominate the cabin experience.

In addition, the maturity differences between a third grader and a fifth grader can be large, which is a challenge to cabin unity. As grade gaps increase, so do the chances of bullying, for which we have no tolerance. So we limit friend groups to a distance of just two grades.

From our scenario above, what about Hamilton? Will he ever get to see Elliot? Of course! Cabins go to activities together and eat meals together, but there are opportunities every day during camper’s choice and free time to see friends from other cabins.

We want every camper to have an amazing week and a huge part of their camp experience is their cabin community. Your camper will meet some new friends, grow closer to old friends, and bond with their cabin as they go through the week.

How set up a friend group

Posted Mar 1, 2022

Jesse Garner

Sr. Director of Camper Engagement

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